Bay Area TV anchor Frank Somerville received a letter via Facebook message on Wednesday, Feb. 19, written by Nailah Winkfield, the mother of Oakland teen Jahi McMath. The 13-year-old girl was declared brain dead after having tonsil surgery at Children's Hospital Oakland just before Christmas.
The teen was at the center of an intense patient’s rights struggle between her family and the hospital after her death. She has since been moved to a long-term care facility.
This letter forwarded by Jahi's uncle Omari Sealy marks the first time in over a month KTVU has heard from Winkfield. She has declined to speak on camera, but has written an open letter addressing the difficulties she and her family have endured over the past month. She also notes that Jahi is not suffering and is surrounded by love.
It has been over a month since I have spoken about my life with Jahi to anyone outside a very small circle of family and friends. So many people have asked how we are doing and if Jahi is alive.
This has and continues to be an unbelievably difficult time for me as a mother and for us as a family. I have withdrawn for reasons of safety and privacy and to focus on my daughter and my role as her mother.
However, I have not been alone. I have been surrounded by the love, support and prayers of so many kind people. Despite what people say about my daughter being dead and how I must be ignorant not to get that, I can tell you that she is much better physically since she has left Children's Hospital and I see changes that give me hope.
As I prayed today, I felt called to express to people that I am truly grateful for the amount of love and support my daughter Jahi McMath and I have received from people all over the world. We feel your prayer and support. Because of your unselfish generosity I was able to do what I was afraid I would never be able to do, move my daughter from Children's Hospital Oakland before they removed her from her ventilator and stopped her heart. This was itself a miracle. Please know that all of the support we received has been used towards helping Jahi.
If I had it my way, I would say thank you to each and every person in their native language so they could understand how much I appreciate them for all their support and, most importantly, prayers. It is my belief that faith in God, your prayers, and the incredible kindness of good hearted medical professionals, are the main reasons my daughter is alive today. I know people are concerned and I want to make sure you know that Jahi is not suffering, she is surrounded by love. I will never let her suffer.
On the long hard days when I'm feeling down, I think about all the people who are praying for me and Jahi and I feel so much better. I want you to know that I'm praying for you as well.
Thank you to all of the people who view my daughter as the sweet, innocent, 13-year-old girl that she is and not a dead body or a corpse, I deeply appreciate that. Thank you to everyone who hasn't forgot how my daughter got into this situation in the first place. No one should have to go through this.
I would like to thank all of the people who have reached out to me and shared their stories of their family members. Some have been heartbreaking. Some have given me hope. All have helped me feel that I am not the only person who has had this struggle. Some of you have shared how you fought for your loved ones and they got better, some of you have shared your regret with not fighting more and some shared with me the incredibly difficult decisions you made to let go. I have prayed for you as you have for me. Sadly, I can say I know how you feel.
I also want to thank those who felt the need to go public with their opinions about me and my daughter, positive and even negative. It is because of you that my daughter's experience is so relevant and that people all over the world know who Jahi Mcmath is. What you may not know is that her name, Jahi, means one who is known by many. Hopefully my daughter can change some of the ways brain death is viewed in today's society. Honestly, I think she already has.
Finally, thank you for all the love, support and prayers you give Jahi every day. I am certain that she knows you are praying for her. I feel the support from your prayer all the time. I don't think I or Jahi would be here today without you. May God bless all who have shown love and compassion as well as those who have expressed their contempt. All are deserving of God's grace and love. For those who believe, please, keep praying for Jahi. God can overcome all things and I believe that His will has yet to be fully revealed. I love Jahi and where there is love, there is hope.
Nailah Winkfield , Jahi's mom